Monday, 11 January 2010

Civilisation 10: The Smile of Reason: 5


Here Clark discusses the ideals of the Enlightenment and the way they had influenced the creation of the Great Republic.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Civilisation 10: The Smile of Reason: 4

In this part of "The Smile of Reason" Clarke returns the France, to boarders of Switzerland and to the subject of Voltaire. The 18th Century was "the heir to Renaissance humanism" (Clark, 1969 p.261). We do see in the late 18th Century the rise of revolutionary thought.

We then move to America where the ideas of Voltaire and others inspired a revolution.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Civilisation 10: The Smile of Reason: 3

"Those who haven't lived in the eighteenth century before the Revolution do not know the sweetness of life" Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-PĂ©rigord.

The salon represented a form resistance  against an autocratic king and a centralised and authoritarian government. They brought together the brightest intellects of France. There aim was to transform society. One of the ways of countering the excesses of a king was to engage with the writing of an encyclopaedia  that would accurately define words and counter the official language, the language of an authoritarian government.

Clark travels to Scotland to discuss the great names in in the world of ideas and science: Adam smith, David Hume, Joseph Black and James Watt. These 18th Century Scots help to transform the whole current of European thought and life.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Civilisation 10: The Smile of Reason: 2


Here Clark discusses art and culture, and role of the amateur in England and France. In the 17th and 18th Century we begin to see the development of public sphere. In 18th Century France  we see the emergence of the salon, which were for forty years the centres of European civilisation.  The salon was the place to converse away from the stifling culture of the royal court. The salon was a success largely because the French government was situated in Versailles.  These salons were held by key figures such as Madame du Deffand, Madame de Sorquainville and Madame Geoffrin.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Civilisation 10: The Smile of Reason: 1


“The Smile of Reason” explores the period from the enlightenment to the English, American and French and industrial revolutions and the rise of republicanism. Kenneth Clark traces the ideological journey which led from the great palaces at Blenheim and Versailles to Jefferson's Monticello.

 We begin this episode with the Enlightenment and the philosopher Voltaire.  Clark observes that "although the victory of reason and tolerance was won in France, it was initiated in England" (Clark, 1969 p. 246)

Clark, K (1969) Civilisation: A personal view, London: BBC/J. Murray

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Civilisation 9: The Pursuit of Happiness: 5


This study of pleasure in the 18th Century moves now to Mozart. One must remember however, to paraphrase the words of Robert Hughes, in the 18th Century the pleasure principle only existed for one class: the aristocracy. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Civilisation 9: The Pursuit of Happiness: 4


By the time Watteau died, in 1721, the Rococo style was beginning to effect decoration and architecture. It became an international style ten years later, spreading across Europe in a similar fashion as early 15th Century Gothic.  Rococo was the visual equivalent of the experience of joy and the visual articulation of pleasure.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Civilisation 9: The Pursuit of Happiness: 3

We move from Bach to Handel. Handel’s style of music “remained faithful throughout his life to the Italian Baroque style. “His music” Clark says, “goes well with the decorations of Tiepolo” (1969, p.231). 

The Baroque, an Italian invention “first came into being as religious architecture" and was used to express “the emotional aspirations of the Catholic Church” (Clark, C., 1969 p.231). Rococo on the other hand “was to some extent a Parisian invention and provocatively secular” (Clark, C., 1969 p.231). It was on a superficial level a reaction against the Classicism of Versailles: “instead of the static orders of antiquity, it drew inspiration from natural objects in which the line wandered freely- shells, flowers seaweed- especially if it wandered in a double curve… it represented a real gain in sensibility” (Clark, C., 1969 p.231). This was drawn from one particular artist: Watteau.


Clark, K (1969) Civilisation: A personal view. London: BBC/J. Murray

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Civilisation 9: The Pursuit of Happiness: 2


This part of episode 9 looks at the musical traditions of Germany: Bach’s music which grew out of the Italian style and the other musical tradition that came out of Dutch and German churches. German baroque architecture is also discussed. 

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Civilisation 9: The Pursuit of Happiness: 1

I put the first episode of Civilisation up on my blog because it showed the fragility of cultures and societies. It showed us some very interesting cultural artefacts. I suppose the ones that seemed more important to me were the examples of Celtic design in the Book of Kells. 

I was tempted to try and upload all of series, but I think that would be madness. So, it was best to be selective. I thought that I would race through the centuries and series and look at episode nine and the 18th Century.  In the “The Pursuit of Happiness” Kenneth Clark reflects on the nature of 18th century music, the work of Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart. He discusses the painter Watteau and considers that some of its qualities are found in Rococo architecture. In 18th century music “- its melodious flow, its complex symmetry, its decorative invention- are reflected in the architecture; but not its deeper appeal to the emotions” (Clark, K, 1969 p. 221). The discussion of the ornate design of Rococo is fascinating, because Clark makes the argument that “the Rococo style has a place in civilisation” (1969, p.221). Clarke complains that “serious minded used to call it shallow and corrupt, chiefly because it was intended for pleasure; well the founders of the American Constitution who were far from frivolous, thought fit to mention the pursuit of happiness as a proper aim of mankind, and even if ever this aim has been given visible form it is in Rococo architecture- the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of love” (Clark, K, 1969 p. 221).

Clark does discuss the style that preceded Rococo, the classical style that was a symbol of a rigid and centralised authoritarian government. Classicism was, is the architecture of bureaucrats, “gifted civil servants” and not craftsmen- “grandeur achieved through the authoritarian state” and is the “architecture of a great metropolitan culture” (Clark, K, 1969 p. 221). There is in classicism a coldness and a “certain inhumanity”, that we see inform the architecture of power in the 20th Century and beyond. The differences between classicism and the rococo recall an earlier observation by Clark about Greek classicism. It is, Clark argues, “static and cold” in comparison with the mobility of the symbol of the Atlantic man, the Viking ship (Clark, 1969 p.14). 

Clark, K (1969) Civilisation: A personal view. London: BBC/J. Murray